DOHA: When Adrien Rabiot, who was not in great shape after his flu but who plugged the holes in the French midfielder all evening in the final, was withdrawn four minutes from time and replaced by Youssouf Fofanait marked a strange moment in French training and in the history of football.
Because, with the exception of their captain Hugo Lloris in goal, all the other French players on the pitch were black.
It was probably the first event of its kind in a World Cup, and a final at that. No African team has played at this highest level of the game, yet France carried a unique marker for race and equality, albeit purely in terms of football.
Apart from ArgentinaWith Messi’s passion overflowing and Messi’s epic footballing journey ending in a World Cup victory, another thing that stood out in Sunday’s final roller coaster epic was the tremendous depth of French football .
Asked about the future, their coach Didier Deschamps was unfazed. “We have great strength in depth. Not worried about the future,” he said. It would not be the hyperbole of a beaten coach trying to distract us, but an observation.
Even before the end of the first half, Deschamps replaced two senior players in Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembele. It looked like the hand of a defeated coach throwing in the towel as Argentina appeared to be sailing with a two-goal lead.
Macron congratulates Messi, consoles Mbappé
Then the second round of substitutions, in the 70th minute – Camavinga and Kingsley Coman for a subdued and largely ineffective Theo Hernandez and Antoine Griezmann, and the line-up reshuffle – was brilliant. France came back into the game almost immediately, setting up a final for the ages.
The fear remains as to how the strident right in France will react to the narrow defeat the Blues ultimately suffered.
Indeed, in the build-up to the final, there were those who pointed to the origins of every player in the starting line-up – even the white Griezmann, who is of Portuguese descent – claiming they weren’t French enough. This was a new blow to the French idea of “liberty, equality, fraternity” as enshrined in their founding principles.
And this while the national team is one of the most complete in modern football, teeming with talented third-generation immigrants from France’s African colonies, players who were all born in France and learned football in the boroughs of Paris.
🇬🇧 Kylian Mbappé’s records at the FIFA World Cup;⚽️ 12 goals in 14 World Cup games, the same record as Pelé.🔝 6… https://t.co/GHPkE4V227
— FIFA World Cup Stats (@alimo_philip) 1671501793000
At their head is the fearsome talent Kylian Mbappe. Despite his fantastic hat-trick in the final – the second goal was incredible balance and execution that defied all the basics of shooting – Mbappe also became the global face of his race. It’s a fervent embrace of the star by a community in desperate need of a hero as racism rises across the world, fueled by the rise of right-wing majoritarianism.
Barely 24 – he celebrates his birthday on Tuesday – Mbappe’s rather indifferent treatment of the French president Emmanuel Macron as the Prime Minister offered his condolences on the Lusail lawn afterwards, he stood cold in the eyes of the world.
🔥This is the 1st time in 52 years that 2 players have been directly involved in more than 10 FIFA World Cup goals;🏟️ 197… https://t.co/fk96RqHuQ2
— FIFA World Cup Stats (@alimo_philip) 1671460112000
It made headlines around the world the next morning, a must-see insert finding leeway in Argentina’s splashes of blue and yellow. Whether it is deep personal disappointment and fatigue at having been so close, or simply a rejection of what Macron stands for, such as using the Blues as a vehicle for his propaganda, many theorists social and political analysts immediately saw in it an image of defiance.
Here, the most important star of the world game almost saw through the president of his country. “Macron, a thousand leagues from offside”, a section of the French media headlined its opinion on his visit to the French dressing room to offer a pep talk, and before that, to be seen on the podium as Qatar and FIFA distributed the final prizes.
Thank you Thousands of fans gathered in Paris to welcome @equipedefrance home 🇫🇷 #FIFAWorldCup #Qatar2022 https://t.co/NY3uiDlAi3
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) 1671501717000
Things weren’t always so frosty between Mbappe and Macron. The most marketable footballer on the planet right now, Mbappe had a long and well-documented saga involving his transfer to Real Madrid, which ultimately fell through. Many believed the last-minute backlash was due to a slight pushback from Macron himself and pressure from Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who is chairman of Qatar Sports Investments, the owners of Paris Saint Germain, his club which has then broke all the rules. to give him unprecedented influence and control.
Macron even had to issue a statement saying he had only informally advised Mbappe to stay in France. “I simply advised him, in a completely informal way, to stay in France. I think it is my responsibility, as president, to defend the country when I am asked to do so in an informal and friendly way”, specifies he. Mbappe would also agree that he received ‘great advice’.
A 𝒃𝒆𝒂𝒖𝒕𝒊𝒇𝒖𝒍 𝒎𝒐𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕 to close this 𝒃𝒆𝒂𝒖𝒕𝒊𝒇𝒖𝒍 𝒂𝒅𝒗𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒖𝒓𝒆 🙌💙 # priestrebleus https://t.co/f9uqdxazxg
— French team ⭐⭐ (@FrenchTeam) 1671492199000
Whatever the current status of the two French personalities, what stands out clearly is the unique status of the star of Cameroonian-Algerian parentage.
Mbappe and his brand of football – explosive, error-free and hugely athletic – have the ability to change the way the game will be played forever. The market realizes this, and it will always be a tricky marriage given the pressures and demands of wealth and the innate need to be socially and politically aware.
Sharing is commitment 🤩#FiersdetreBleus https://t.co/8PigsR05Rr
— French team ⭐⭐ (@FrenchTeam) 1671489022000
It’s this prodigious talent and unimaginable potential that he carries that makes Mbappe the face of his race. In Doha on Sunday, with Messi, he was presented as the main state employee. Moreover, on Sunday, alongside Messi, he flew effortlessly above all those trappings and into a realm that can only be his and his race’s.